Pancetta, Bell Pepper & Tomato Baked Beans


This recipe, adapted from Chef Michael Smith’s “Maple Baked Beans” came about because I didn’t have maple syrup, oddly enough, when I set out to make the recipe that was stowed in my to-make files! Since many such recipes have a tomato based sauce, that’s what I went with. After making it a few times, I’ve been adding my own touches.

 

Buy your pancetta by the piece – and you can cut it to the size you need. It’s a powerhouse ingredient in the kitchen and using just a little of this Italian style bacon adds a tremendous amount of flavour.

If you’ve never made your own baked beans, this recipe will have you wondering why you haven’t. They freeze well, so making a big batch is a really, really good idea. With them being a soup/stew like consistency, it’s also a very good opportunity to add additional veg. If you grate them or cut them small, they practically melt into the sauce and your unsuspecting family will be none the wiser. But healthier for it. In addition to protein, beans also have fibre & iron, and are a great low cost & nutritional value for your table.You do need to start the dried beans to soak overnight – so plan ahead and do this step when making dinner, to finish the next day. If you’re pressed for time to do the final stage in the oven… after the first cooking of the beans, let them cool and store in their liquid, in the fridge – successfully spreading the work of the recipe over several days. How efficient~

 

 Pancetta, Bell Pepper & Tomato Baked Beans

Omit the pancetta, if you want to make these vegetarian. Use any small white bean. I’ve tried both pea beans and navy beans with great results. This is a great dish to have simmering in the oven on a lazy winter afternoon~

Ingredients:
2 cups dried navy or white beans, soaked in cold water overnight, in the fridge
Possible aromatics for the initial cooking of the beans:
1/2 onion, 1 or 2 garlic cloves, 1 or 2 bay leaves

2 oz pancetta, diced small (to omit, use your fave cooking oil here)
1 onion, medium dice
1 bell pepper (any colour) diced’
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp Kosher salt
Few grinds of fresh black pepper

1 1/2 cups tomato passata
1 1/2 cups water
1/2 cup brown sugar
1TBSP any mustard
1 tsp powdered ginger
1 tsp dried mustard
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1/2 tsp Kosher salt
Few grinds of fresh black pepper

Preparation:
Strain the soaked beans, rinse them well and add them to a large pot. Do add at least one of the suggested aromatics, as it’s a very good time to add flavour to the beans, rather than the sauce.
Cover with water by a couple inches and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer, cover and cook for 1 hour or until tender; they won’t soften much in the oven. When the beans are cooked, add the salt & pepper to the pot/cooking liquid while still warm, stirring well. (If you add salt to the initial cooking process, the beans will not cook through!) Leave on the back of the stove, and continue with recipe. **To finish another time, let the beans & liquid cool, cover and store in the fridge.)

Preheat oven to 300°

In a large dutch oven (or other oven safe type pot) over medium heat, add the diced pancetta and cook until golden or heat the oil if not using pancetta. Add the onion & bell pepper, season with a sprinkle of the salt & pepper and cook until starting to soften, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute, until fragrant.

Drain the beans (removing any aromatics used) and add to the sautéed pancetta & vegetables. Add the passata, water, and all remaining ingredients, stirring well.

Cover and place in the oven. Bake until the beans are tender, about 1 hour or so. If they appear too soupy after cooking don’t worry; as you reheat them you’ll be glad for the saucy consistency~